Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Joy to Grief - From Breakthrough to Breakdown

The other week, when I first heard the news that the MILF and the Government were about to sign a memorandum of agreement about the ancestral domain issue, I was filled with joy. I thought that this was a breakthrough in the peace process. But I was concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation especially about the content of the MOA. I had also suspicions about the real agenda of President Arroyo, since the MOA required charter change in order to implement it. After the Supreme Court stopped the signing of the MOA the trouble began.

What was supposed to be a breakthrough for peace has turned into a breakdown. The MILF violated the ceasefire agreement by attacking and occupying towns in Cotabato and Lanao. A lot of attrocities have been committed. Old people and children were not spared. There were two bombing in my hometown in Iligan City. Last night I talked with my sister in Iligan and she told me that there was panic in the city. My other sister and her family have evacuated to a safer place because of the fear that their area will soon be attacked.

I am deeply saddened and disappointed at this turn of events. And to think that last week, seven bishops headed by Archbishop Capalla met with seven MILF representatives headed by Monagher Iqbal. They even came out with the statement saying that "both the MILF and the bishops reiterate their unwavering moral commitment to pursue the path to peace, solidarity, justice and development in Mindanao and resolve and support the continuation of the peace proc ess between the MILF and the government until its successful conclusion is achieved."

The recent development has opened old wounds especially among the Christians who have been affected by this senseless violence. It has also reinforced old prejudices that the Moro cannot be trusted to keep his word, or that even if you have become his friend he will betray you. This could escalate once again into a Christian-Muslim conflict. This is unfortunate. Without the support of the people at the grassroots, any MOA or peace agreement will be useless.

What I find reassuring is many Muslim leaders have also condemned the MILF attacks. I hope that the MILF leadership will really investigate the field commanders whom they claim acted without authorization and make them answerable for the attrocities. Otherwise, they will lose the trust and goodwill that have been generated over the years. The peace process will not prosper.

I keep on hoping and praying for peace in Mindanao.

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